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Audio Tour Stop #4: The Persistence of Gail Borden Jr., Creator of the First Preserved, Non-Refrigerated Milk

On Gail Bordon Jr.’s return voyage from the London World’s Fair in 1851, sick cows that provided milk for passengers led to the death of several babies. Haunted by the memories, Borden started experimenting with ways to preserve milk. He was inspired by a vacuum pan he had seen Shakers use to condense fruit juices. After numerous attempts and nearly going bankrupt, he successfully created sweetened condensed milk, the first method for preserving milk without refrigeration. In 1856, he launched Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk, which became a household name during the Civil War and helped lower the U.S. infant mortality rate in the 19th century. As Borden’s company and influence grew he developed “Ten Commandments” of dairy hygiene to ensure product safety. The New York Condensed Milk Company, which became Borden Dairy after his death, helped transform the dairy business from local farm operations to a major consumer industry.

 Bordon had numerous ventures and inventions before creating condensed milk. As a young boy, Bordon helped his father survey Covington, Kentucky. Later as an adult, he would survey the original city grids for Houston and Galveston. He also founded the first newspaper in Texas. With a nod to his storied persistence and failures, he had his tombstone carved with “I tried and I failed. I tried again and again and succeeded.”